The Red Devils lost twice this week to conclude their season, a 71-56 loss to Emery on Tuesday, Feb. 18 and a 60-48 loss to Merit Academy in the first round of the state playoffs at Orem High School on Saturday, Feb. 22.
The Red Devils (11-10, 5-5 Region 15) held fourth-quarter leads in each game before faltering down the stretch. Against Merit Academy, Grand led 42-40 entering the fourth quarter, but the Knights held the Red Devils to 6 points in the final frame, while scoring 20 of their own to advance in the playoffs, with the final three rounds to be played this weekend at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield.
“We came out in the third quarter and built our lead I think as high as 9 points, but we started taking not-so-smart shots and turned it over a couple of times and had some missed layups,” Red Devil boys basketball coach Brook Shumway said. “We were 1-for-7 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. We just didn’t play well at the end.”
Senior Koi Cook led the Red Devils in scoring with 16 points in his final high school basketball game, while fellow senior Adam Jenkinson added 14.
The Red Devils won a coin flip with South Sevier to determine which team would be Region 15’s No. 3 seed, and which would be No. 4. The Rams upset Region 14 champion Layton Christian 66-57 on Saturday, Feb. 22 to advance to this weekend’s action.
On Tuesday, Feb. 18, with the No. 2 seed on the line, Emery’s Dillon Wilstead erupted on the Red Devils’ home floor for 34 points, including 14 in the first quarter, hitting four 3-pointers to lead Emery to a 23-13 lead.
The Red Devils clawed back to within 2 points before halftime, with each team holding the ball at half court for extending periods of time. When Grand pulled within 4 at 27-23, Emery’s Bailey Faimalo held the ball at half court for at least 30 seconds, seemingly to kill the Red Devils’ momentum. When the Spartans finally began playing again, the Red Devils blocked their shot attempt. Later, Jenkinson held the ball at half court for almost a full minute to get the half’s final shot, which was an alley-oop layup from Jenkinson to senior Kaden Risenhoover, who was fouled on the play and also made the free throw to go into halftime at 30-28.
At the beginning of the third quarter, Wilstead, who didn’t score in the second quarter after his torrid first quarter, went on a 12-2 run by himself to reclaim a commanding lead for the Spartans. But, Grand responded again, going on a 14-1 run, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Risenhoover, to end the third quarter at 48-47 in the Spartans’ favor.
“He seems to burn us for some reason,” Jenkinson said of Wilstead’s string of success against the Red Devils. “It didn’t come down to that, though. They made shots and we didn’t.”
Jenkinson and Cook said the Red Devils showed in streaks that they’re a tough team when they’re on their game.
“When we were on streaks, we were intense and emotional,” Jenkinson said. “I don’t think there are very many teams that can beat us if we play that way the entire game.”
Grand junior Jasen Christensen scored a basket at the beginning of the fourth quarter to give the Red Devils their first and only lead of the game at 49-48. Wilstead scored a basket and foul shot on Emery’s next trip down the floor, drawing the foul on Risenhoover, a call many thought should have been a charge against Wilstead.
“The ref blew that call and they get an and-1, that was the turning point in the game,” Shumway said. “Instead of having the ball up 1, we’re down 2.”
Grand kept it close until midway through the quarter, when the Spartans, who were in the double bonus, played keep-away from the Red Devils to run out the clock and force Grand to foul them. After scoring on a field goal to extend its lead to 59-53, Emery scored its final 12 points via free-throw to put away the Red Devils.
Jenkinson scored 16 points to lead Grand, while Risenhoover scored 12, Cook scored 9 and Christensen added 8.
Shumway said the Red Devils have a lot to be proud of from this season.
“For the first year in my program, we did very good – we had some big wins, big region wins, and we had more region wins than we’ve had here in a long time,” he said. “I couldn’t feel any better about the kids this year.”
The Red Devils lose their entire starting lineup – seniors Jenkinson, Risenhoover, Cook, Trevor Bertuzzi and Hunter Stitzer – to graduation. Shumway said the Red Devils’ success next year depends on offseason dedication.
“It all comes down to time in the gym,” he said. “If these kids dedicate themselves and get to the gym throughout the offseason, they’ll be just fine.”
Grand falters down the stretch in final game
“For the first year in my program, we did very good. I couldn’t feel any better about the kids this year,”